22 November 2010

Bottlenose dolphin movements in Greece

Based on work done by Tethys in the coastal waters of western Greece, new information on bottlenose dolphin movements has become available.

A recent paper published in the Journal of Ecology reports movements of nine individual dolphins observed across three different study areas and photoidentified up to 265 km apart.

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Image: Location of the three study areas in Greece, and movements by nine bottlenose dolphins. From Bearzi et al. 2010.

Bearzi G., Bonizzoni S., Gonzalvo J. 2010. Mid-distance movements of common bottlenose dolphins in the coastal waters of Greece. Journal of Ethology. DOI: 10.1007/s10164-010-0245-x 
ABSTRACT: While bottlenose dolphins in Mediterranean waters often display a high level of site fidelity, movements across distant areas can occur. Such movements have important implications in terms of population viability, particularly in basins with low bottlenose dolphin densities. We report movements of nine individuals photoidentified up to 265 km apart in western Greece. Four showed a certain degree of site fidelity to one area across several years, but were also found elsewhere, with two individuals moving between two areas. This study provides further evidence that animals appearing to be ‘resident’ within a given area can temporarily leave and range widely.

20 November 2010

Australian white sharks in the Mediterranean Sea


Some cetaceans and birds are known to perform long-distance movements. Now, a recent study explains how white sharks could also be added to this ‘record’ list. Researchers found out that white sharks living in the Mediterranean Sea are closely related to those living in Australian waters.

About 450,000 years ago, while some individuals were swimming between Australia and Africa, strong abnormal currents deviated their routes and probably led them to the west coast of Africa. Once there, they would have tried in vain to head east again to go back on their route but ended in the Mediterranean.

"Once they got to the Mediterranean they may have become trapped because its peninsulas and channels make it like a giant lobster pot (…) But because white shark females return to the area where give birth, once they birth in the Mediterranean they become a fixture, shaping and rebalancing the ecosystem" commented Jones, one of the authors.

SB

---Image: ‘Bruce’ the white-shark in the famous cartoon ‘Finding Nemo’.

Gubili C., Bilgin R., Kalkan E., Karhan S.U., Jones C.S., Sims D.W., Kabasakal H., Martin A.P., Noble L.R. 2010. Antipodean white sharks on a Mediterranean walkabout? Historical dispersal leads to genetic discontinuity and an endangered anomalous population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 10.1098/rspb.2010.1856

ABSTRACT: The provenance of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in the Mediterranean is both a conundrum and an important conservation issue. Considering this species's propensity for natal philopatry, any evidence that the Mediterranean stock has little or no contemporary immigration from the Atlantic would suggest that it is extraordinarily vulnerable. To address this issue we sequenced the mitochondrial control region of four rare Mediterranean white sharks. Unexpectedly, the juvenile sequences were identical although collected at different locations and times, showing little genetic differentiation from Indo-Pacific lineages, but strong separation from geographically closer Atlantic/western Indian Ocean haplotypes. Historical long-distance dispersal (probably a consequence of navigational error during past climatic oscillations) and potential founder effects are invoked to explain the anomalous relationships of this isolated ‘sink’ population, highlighting the present vulnerability of its nursery grounds.

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For more information:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8137374/Mediterranean-great-white-sharks-are-Australian.html
http://news.discovery.com/animals/aussie-great-white-shark-moms-made-mediterranean-home.html

To read the paper:
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/11/16/rspb.2010.1856.full.pdf+html

08 November 2010

Sea turtles and plastic in the Adriatic Sea


A recent study conducted in the Adriatic waters focused on loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta and plastic debris.

Researchers from the University of Zagreb found that marine debris was ingested by 35% of loggerheads foraging in neritic habitats of the Adriatic Sea. Debris include plastic bags, wrapping foils, ropes, polystyrene foam and fishing line; but soft plastic was the most frequent found in digestive tract.

The high occurrence of debris intake represents a factor of concern for loggerheads in the Adriatic Sea. The researchers hope that, having shown that the turtles are particularly vulnerable to plastic debris, more will be done to reduce such debris.

SB

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Lazar B., Gračan R. 2010. Ingestion of marine debris by loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, in the Adriatic Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2010.09.013

Abstract - We examined the occurrence of marine debris in the gastrointestinal tract of 54 loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) found stranded or incidentally captured dead by fisheries in the Adriatic Sea, with a curved carapace length of 25.0–79.2 cm. Marine debris was present in 35.2% of turtles and included soft plastic, ropes, Styrofoam and monofilament lines found in 68.4%, 42.1%, 15.8% and 5.3% of loggerheads that have ingested debris, respectively. The dry mass of debris per turtle was low, ranging from <0.01 to 0.71 g, and the ingestion was not significantly affected by sex or body size (all p > 0.05). Marine debris averaged 2.2 ± 8.0% of dry mass of gut content, with a maximum of 35% found in a juvenile turtle that most likely died due to debris ingestion. Considering the relatively high occurrence of debris intake and possible sub-lethal effects of even small quantities of marine debris, this can be an additional factor of concern for loggerheads in the Adriatic Sea.

06 November 2010

La nuova Tethys


Il 5 novembre si è svolta l'Assemblea dei Soci dell'Istituto Tethys durante la quale sono state rinnovate le cariche sociali di Presidente, Consiglio Direttivo e Collegio dei Probiviri.

Il nuovo Presidente è Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, mentre Simone Panigada è stato confermato Vicepresidente.

I membri del nuovo Consiglio Direttivo sono: Sabina Airoldi, Arianna Azzellino, Joan Gonzalvo, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Simone Panigada, Elena Politi e Margherita Zanardelli.

I membri del nuovo Collegio dei Probiviri sono Silvia Bonizzoni, Caterina Lanfredi e Massimo Demma, quest'ultimo in qualità di presidente del Collegio.

05 November 2010

Looting the seas


After 'The End of the Line', a powerful film has become available about one of the planet's most disturbing environmental problems - overfishing:

'Looting the Seas: how overfishing, fraud, and negligence plundered the majestic bluefin tuna'

This is a project of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Its multinational team investigated into the bluefin trade for seven months scouring public records and interviewed sources in ten countries.

The documentary is composed by:

Overview - The Black Market in Bluefin. How a decade of rampant fraud and lax oversight threatened tuna stocks and created a $4 billion black market.

Part I - A Mediterranean feeding frenzy. How overfishing, rampant cheating, and official complicity plundered the Atlantic bluefin tuna

Part II - Diving into the tuna ranching industry. Sea "ranches” for fattening tuna became lucrative centers for “laundering” bluefin.

Part III - Bluefin, Inc. With no questions asked, Japanese traders fed a ravenous demand for high-quality sushi.

Not to be missed !

SB

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For more information:
http://www.publicintegrity.org/articles/entry/2651/

04 November 2010

Il Mare Nero

Quella della Louisiana è forse la più grande catastrofe ambientale provocata dall'uomo nella storia. Nelle acque europee ci sono 100 piattaforme, in quelle del Mediterraneo ce ne sono un centinaio…

Così Milena Gabanelli - autrice e conduttrice del programma televisivo Report - ha introdotto la recente inchiesta 'Il Mare Nero'.

Dopo l’esplosione della piattaforma  BP nel Golfo del Messico sono fuoriusciti circa 5 milioni di barili, solo il 60% è stato recuperato o bruciato. In tanti si stanno chiedendo dove è finito? La risposta viene dall’Italia, e in particolare da un mare dove venti anni fa è colato tanto petrolio e i fondali non sono mai stati bonificati nonostante la legge sull’ambiente del ’98 lo imponesse…

Una puntata da non perdere, specialmente se si considera che nel Mar Ligure - ovvero nel cuore del Santuario dei Cetacei - nel 1991 è esplosa la petroliera Haven e le conseguenze, come sottolineato dal servizio di Sigfrido Ranucci, sono ancora evidenti.

SB

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Per maggiori informazioni:
http://www.report.rai.it
'Il Mare Nero'

02 November 2010

‘Balloon head’ dolphin


New information about ancient cetaceans: a recent study identified an ancient dolphin characterised by a short, spoon-shaped high nose and a balloon-shaped forehead.

Platalearostrum hoekmani is its name: it lived 2-3 million years ago.

Only a bone has been found, but researchers are convinced they have discovered a new species, whose closest living relative is the pilot whale.

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Drawing:
how Platalearostrum hoekmani probably looked, by R. Bakker / Manimal Works

For more information:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11673924

31 October 2010

Ancient bite


An international team working in Peru found the skull, the lower jaw and some teeth of what has been called 'a new raptorial sperm whale'. The experts named the animal Leviathan melvillei and dated it as 12-13 million years old.

The unusual finding is related to the teeth: more than 36 cm long and with a 12 cm diameter. These could have been used to feed on on medium-size baleen whales as Olivier Lambert - one of the researchers - suggests: "... it has the largest teeth, and possibly the most powerful bite. With such large teeth on upper and lower jaws, robust mandible and vast area of origin for jaw muscles, we think Leviathan was able to feed on large prey."


Olivier Lambert, Giovanni Bianucci, Klaas Post, Christian de Muizon, Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, Mario Urbina, Jelle Reumer. The giant bite of a new raptorial sperm whale from the Miocene epoch of Peru. Nature 466 (7302): 105 DOI: 10.1038/nature09067

Abstract: The modern giant sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus, one of the largest known predators, preys upon cephalopods at great depths. Lacking a functional upper dentition, it relies on suction for catching its prey; in contrast, several smaller Miocene sperm whales (Physeteroidea) have been interpreted as raptorial (versus suction) feeders, analogous to the modern killer whale Orcinus orca. Whereas very large physeteroid teeth have been discovered in various Miocene localities, associated diagnostic cranial remains have not been found so far. Here we report the discovery of a new giant sperm whale from the Middle Miocene of Peru (approximately 12–13 million years ago), Leviathan melvillei, described on the basis of a skull with teeth and mandible. With a 3-m-long head, very large upper and lower teeth (maximum diameter and length of 12 cm and greater than 36 cm, respectively), robust jaws and a temporal fossa considerably larger than in Physeter, this stem physeteroid represents one of the largest raptorial predators and, to our knowledge, the biggest tetrapod bite ever found. The appearance of gigantic raptorial sperm whales in the fossil record coincides with a phase of diversification and size-range increase of the baleen-bearing mysticetes in the Miocene. We propose that Leviathan fed mostly on high-energy content medium-size baleen whales. As a top predator, together with the contemporaneous giant shark Carcharocles megalodon, it probably had a profound impact on the structuring of Miocene marine communities. The development of a vast supracranial basin in Leviathan, extending on the rostrum as in Physeter, might indicate the presence of an enlarged spermaceti organ in the former that is not associated with deep diving or obligatory suction feeding.

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For more information:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101013212637.htm
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/gigantic-jaws-of-ancient-whale-could-bring-down-moby-dick-2015265.html

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Photo (c) Tony Wu: adult 'modern' sperm whale carrying the remains of a squid.

27 October 2010

Northern Gulf of Evia: end of phase 1

Today we completed our first phase of work in the Northern Gulf of Evia, Greece—a project funded and administered by OceanCare in the context of a collaboration with Tethys.

We did 1,343 km of navigation encompassing the whole Gulf (an area of 1,265 squared km), resulting in 13 encounters with bottlenose dolphins, 3 with monk seals, 5 with large (80+ cm) tuna, 20 with flying fish, and one with a sea turtle. 

Giovanni Bearzi and Silvia Bonizzoni

13 October 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 20 (27 September – 26 October)

End of the 2010 field research season

The 2010 season in the waters of the Ligurian Sea and Pelagos Sanctuary has been impressive: 13000 km travelled at sea, totalling 905 h of navigation and 297 cetacean sightings: 210 of striped dolphins, 44 of fin whales, 32 of sperm whales, 5 of Risso’s dolphins, 4 of beaked whales and two of long-finned pilot whales. How many animals? Who knows, we are still trying to figure it out. And then sea turtles, ocean sunfish, tuna, swordfish, seabirds.

But out at sea there were not only dolphins, whales and all sort of other animals. There were people too. Participants from around the world joined the researchers on Pelagos, willing to see animals, enjoy them, contribute to their protection and being a part of our endeavors. How can we forget the volunteers crying while looking at the small striped dolphins bowriding in front of them, turning on their sides and glancing at them as if they were truly feeling a bond with the people on board. The agile and gigantic, confident and majestic sperm whales resting at the surface, dominating the resounding waves. How can we forget those who remained breathless and speechless in front of a fin whale blowing, just a few metres from our boat.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”. It is always a pleasure to work with happy and enthusiastic people, curious and interested, able to spread their passion and excitement. Many thanks to all of you!

Nino, Eva, Chiara and Sabina (CSR team members)

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This week was fantastic, I’ve learned so much about all kinds of animals. I would recommend this trip to anyone but I would say to book two weeks because by the time the first week is over you have just settled in and found where everything goes. Thank you to all the crew for making this trip memorable.

Ruth (UK)

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A stellar expedition that exceeded my expectations in many ways: from the delicious meals, to the informative conversations and lectures, the opportunity to have been a participant in these research activities has been an experience of a lifetime. Thanks for a great week of superlatives Tethys!

Julieanne (Canada)

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This week was one of the most spectacular times we have ever had. The wonderful nature, the giant animals, the life on board and the patience and kindness of the researchers are only a few points that made this time so fantastic for us. We learnt a lot about the animals in the Mediterranean Sea and when we come so close to them, we felt the beauty and the uniqueness of these wonderful animals. It is a great pleasure to find people, who watch and protect them from human foolishness and unawareness. Thank you to all of the researchers of Tethys. All of you do a very great job and we are glad to know you. We will come back again!

Heimo, Sabine and Angela (Germany)

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I have had such a brilliant time onboard Pelagos!  Seeing so many dolphins and whales was amazing, especially seeing the Risso’s dolphins! I have learnt so much and definitely have a greater appreciation for conserving the marine environment, I won’t eat tuna that has been fished using unsustainable methods again! Everyone has been so kind and welcoming and the food has been yummy! I definitely want to come back again next year!

Abbie (UK)

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I expected it to be good but it was so much better than good in so many different ways. Some moments of pure unadulterated joy that will last me forever. Thank you.

Judith (UK)

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It was a really fantastic week. It was much better than we had expected. The weather was very good. The boat was nice. We had a lot of fun and we got a very good impression of the researchers’ work. They are really professional and very passionate in their work. And in addition to that they are so polite, helpful, friendly and wonderful people. They managed to do their research and involve the participants into their work at the same time. And still, there was always time for explanation and fun! We would like to come again. Thank you and stay as you are!

Christoph and Claudia (Germany)

11 October 2010

Dolphins of Greece 18 (2-9 October 2010)


I have had a wonderful week, seeing so many different dolphin behaviours and many sea birds including flamingos, cormorants and terns. Marina and Joe have made it special with their enthusiasm and anecdotes of a broad range of experiences in the field. I shall return to work refreshed and with an enhanced understanding of the importance of dolphins in their ecosystem.

Kate (UK)

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It was an amazing week from several points of view – to meet so different and interesting people and to work together in such a wonderful project. I learned a lot about the dolphins, their life and behaviour, about the sea – how big, how great and at the same time how unprotected it is. When you learn something new, that really touches your mind, you start to think in a different way and consequently you change your deeds. Moreover, you try to share this experience with the other people and hopefully can make the surrounding world a little bit better. I also hope that the data we have managed to collect will be helpful for the further scientific work. This week in Vonitsa impressed me a lot and I would like to say thank you very much to Marina and Joe and all the people from our Team.

Eugenia (Russia)

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Thanks to the weather, to a great team, to the dolphins and to Greece. It was a wonderful time and experience I have got. I do not think I would be able to get such an experience anywhere else and I hope I made a tiny contribution to the process of improvement of the environment. Let’s hope that the next teams and generations see how beautiful it is. Dolphins are wonderful creatures and have their right to survive as all the rest creatures in the world. The project was organised on very high professional level, exactly what was required for the effective work and team building exercise. My personal gratitude to Marina and Joe, for their professionalism and kind attention to the team, they were able to create the right atmosphere to give the feeling to every member of the importance of their contribution. The whole team was excellent, and everyone had a chance to use his or her knowledge and experience. I learned a lot, I hope to continue to cooperate with Earthwatch institute to take part in future projects. I wish all the best and every success to Tethys in their difficult and generous task. Thanks again and all the best!

Sergey (Kazakhstan)

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Our week in Vonitsa has been amazing. Marina’s enthusiasm for her subject (botany excluded?) and life in general made all the week a joy, not just the dolphin recording and watching. Flamingos, seagulls, schools of small fish boiling the sea waters, exploring islands and local community living, all added to the experience in which watching dolphins bow-riding was the highlight. Joe’s helpful, good-humour and interest in the work encouraged us. He and Marina worked (worked well together to make up the whole brilliant team) with an interesting group of fellow volunteers. Thank you to all who made the week possible.

Judith and George (UK)

06 October 2010

Monk seal # 2

Second encounter with a monk seal in the Gulf of Evia. This animal, who was different from the one sighted yesterday (see previous post), was observed for an hour engaging in food search in a murky bay, not far from an industrial plant. She performed dives approximately 4-6 min long followed by about 30 sec of ventilations. During those 30 sec spent at the surface we could watch the seal in all her beauty while she was elegantly swimming, staring at us from time to time (photo). While she did not seem exceedingly wary of the boat, she never came closer than 30-50 m. This is a wise behaviour, considering that monk seals in the coastal waters of Greece are still sometimes seen as vermin, and shot.

Giovanni Bearzi

05 October 2010

Monk seal lunch

Our first day of work in the Gulf of Evia did not have dolphins to offer, but an amazing and unexpected encounter with a monk seal who was having lunch at the surface. The seal had a large octopus in his mouth and he was forcefully and repeatedly shaking it with the head out of the water, producing splashes that could be seen from far away. We speculated he intended to kill the octopus before eating it. We approached at slow speed up to about 50 m to observe this unusual behaviour, and the monk seal did not appear disturbed. He finished his lunch, gazed at us, then moved away. We managed to capture some phases of the octopus lunch, but most photos were blurry due to the distance, except for the one shown here, which even when magnified was sharp enough to capture the fierce look of this large and critically endangered marine mammal.

Giovanni Bearzi

04 October 2010

A new dolphin investigation begins

We started a new investigation in the Northern Gulf of Evia (click on image to zoom out).

After having spent a part of the summer dealing with all the logistical aspects, Silvia and I finally moved to a convenient location in the central part of the Gulf. We set up a new field station and managed to get appropriate mooring facilities. We are now ready for work at sea.

OceanCare kindly provided funding to start this new enterprise, and lent a new 100HP engine. Work in the Gulf—done in the context of a collaboration between Tethys and OceanCare—should be conducted between autumn 2010 and spring 2011. Depending on the results, we will decide how the project may unfold in future years.

Some information on dolphins in the Northern and Southern Gulfs of Evia was produced in 2003 by researchers Zafiropoulos and Merlini (*), who reported a high density of bottlenose dolphins in the Northern Gulf. Since then, however, no systematic research was conducted.

Our new study intends to complement the existing information and if possible contribute a preliminary estimate of dolphin abundance, as well as information about status and threats, which may support management action.

The work is also intended to provide insight on dolphin ecology and behaviour in different habitats. It is an exciting opportunity to get to know more about dolphins living in the coastal waters of Greece and allow for comparisons among areas exposed to a variety of human impacts, based on work that is now being conducted in four study areas (the other three being the Amvrakikos Gulf, the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago and the Gulf of Corinth).

To know more about the research done in the context of Coastal Dolphins Greece, please visit:

www.coastaldolphins.org

Giovanni Bearzi and Silvia Bonizzoni

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(*) Zafiropoulos D., Merlini L. 2003. A comparative ecological study of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in South and North Evoikos Gulfs. 8th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology, Lemnos island, Greece.

03 October 2010

Bug bite

I set out at the beginning of this experience with the aim of broadening my understanding of cetaceans and hoped to use it to gain more of an insight into the field of Cetology. I’ve always held a deep fascination for the sea and all its inhabitants. So, when I was lucky enough to be offered this opportunity to get to know it a little bit better, I was really thrilled.

After almost 8 months of waiting for the time to depart on this journey, I arrived in Vonitsa, like a sponge, ready to absorb as much as I could. I will be the first to admit that I might have glamorized the whole concept of studying dolphins in my head, during the last 8 months. However, Joan was quick to bring my head out of the clouds and put feet back down on the ground. Right from the very beginning I learned that working on a project with volunteers involved three separate but equally important skills. The first being able to help in the data collection whilst conducting surveys and then be able to analyse the photos of every encounter. The second, was being able to communicate and connect with the volunteers in a way that provided them with the means to play their own role in the projects development. The final skill was taking care of the domestic affairs. I was surprised to see the amount of effort that had to go into keeping the day-to-day functioning of the project running smoothly and tried my best to keep it that way. Although, whether I succeeded in that final respect is up to Joan. Still, all this effort paled into insignificance whenever I reflected on how lucky I was to be in a position where encounters with wild dolphins were an almost daily pleasure.

The peak of this joy was on the 18th September, in Kalamos of all places. It was business as usual at the Tethys field base. Arising early with the sunrise, we left bleary-eyed from our base in Vonitsa, in the Amvrakikos Gulf. We drove to the nearby area of Kalamos from where we were to embark on what most of us had resigned ourselves to as a survey without much hope. As we cast off from the Mytikas, Joan the principle investigator (a title given to him, much to his own distaste) drove our small rib into an ethereal mist shrouding the nearby island of Kalamos. A former watery Eden, up until 1997 had a healthy population of 150 common dolphins. Sadly, however, the population suffered a dramatic decline, from about 150 to 15 in just 15 years. This was primarily the result of overfishing, which led to the depletion of their prey. However, a mere ten minutes into our survey, Joan calls out excitedly, “Dolphins, three o’clock, horizon!” We all spin round and gaze expectantly at the area that Joan has steered the boat towards. We stare intently for the next thirty seconds and with no dorsal fin sighted, we thought perhaps Joan had been mistaken. Then, they surfaced again! Black shapes arching majestically out of the water, around 500 metres straight in front of us. Delighted, there was a collective intake of breath as the sheer size of the pod that we had found became apparent. At least 10 individuals were cruising along in front of the boat. However, the best was yet to come. Joan calls out “They’re common dolphins!”. Utterly astonished, we all jumped to our stations, Joan and myself yelling out instructions. Joan’s excitement, infectious. Elated calls from our volunteers began raining in providing us valuable information on dolphin numbers and location with respect to our boat, by putting into practice the well rehearsed procedures, originally taught role-playing on the beach back in Vonitsa and honed during a week spent observing the bottlenose dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf. We were lucky enough to remain with them for the next three hours, trying to collect as much data as possible on this important encounter. We watched with delight as they lounged about, just stretching near the surface. The day was topped off by a sighting of a newborn common dolphin, who like any regular kid, was bursting with energy keeping the adults from resting. However, despite the feeling of euphoria on board, the passing-by of two large bottom trawlers, heading to their fishing grounds, provided a sobering reminder that lessons had still not been learnt.

During the journey back to port, the atmosphere onboard the zodiac was palpable. Each member talked animatedly about such and such a sighting that they had had, despite the fact that we had all seen the same. Finally, it was with a feeling of great satisfaction, contentment and pride that we all disembarked from the boat. We drove back to Vonitsa exhausted, but with the knowledge that we had all witnessed something special.

For me personally, this experience was the culmination of three years of hard work in getting to where I hoped to be and sheer good luck that I had been offered this opportunity. I write this with two weeks of this incredible adventure to go and feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to meet such a wide range of people from all over the world; to be able to work with such a beautiful species in their natural environment; and to have been taught so much by Joan and Marina, who, together, offer a staggering amount of knowledge and insight. They have both, each in their own unique and completely different way, conveyed a feeling that will be hard to forget. I fear I have been bitten by the same "bug" and it will be with a heavy heart that I finally leave to return to England, but also a content one, knowing that this experience has been everything that I could have wished it to be.

Joe Treddenick
Research assistant, Coastal Dolphins Greece

02 October 2010

Hellenic Dolphins: the 2010 research season ends


The dolphin research project in the Gulf of Corinth has recently concluded its second research season, scoring a total of 61 dolphin sightings.

We had many pleasant encounters with marine life. 

We saw all four cetacean species that inhabit the Gulf: bottlenose, striped, short-beaked common and a single Risso’s dolphin.

And also 402 encounters with jellyfish Cothyloriza tubercolata, 23 with loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta, 82 with tuna and 5 with swordfish.

Happy and satisfied about the work done this year, we are grateful to all the volunteers who participated in the field courses, helped us with the research and shared with us every single moment at sea. 



A big THANK YOU to our 63 volunteers who came from 16 nations: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and USA:


Frédéric, Laurence, Jillian, Christine, Kate, Sacha, Joanna, Ellis, Ann, Nathalie, Khai Lin, Amanda, Valentina, Rachel, Iris, Graham, Joy, Chrystelle, Lisbet, Katrine, Cornelia, Kate, Jamie, Dagmar, Chloe, Allan, Marie-Eve, Merry, Aislinn, Siobhan, Mirjam, Laura, Riccardo, Dominique, Emily, Karen, Jakub, Valentina, Christina, Russell, Gabriella, Dimitiros, Claudia, Nicole, Andrea, Frédéric, Alison, Suzanne, Marta, Nathan, Steven, Laura, Beatrice, Kathryn, Joana, Ana Caterina, Philipp, Lydia, Yasmine, Gabriele, Lois, Pierandrea, and Jennifer (in order of participation).

Silvia and the Hellenic Dolphins team 2010

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Updated information about Coastal Dolphins Greece can be found HERE.

The expedition briefing for the research season 2011 is already ONLINE.

29 September 2010

Dolphins of Greece 17 (21-28 September)


Thanks to the staff (including Posi) for sharing your dolphins with us. I am glad we had a couple of wonderful weather days to witness these special animals and I hope the data collected continues to benefit their health.

Jean (USA)

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Participating in field research has been extremely interesting, with the help of Joan, Joe and especially the dolphins. The week has certainly caused me to re-examine my place in the whole ecosystem, from scuba diving to home aquariums to fishing and multiple other aspects of my daily life that I didn’t think about much in the past. Thanks to all who made this week possible.

Kim (USA)

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The weather didn’t cooperate very well but due to the extraordinary efforts of Joan and Joe we were able to maximize the experience. I appreciated the detailed explanations of the nuts and bolts of marine research. I look forward to reading the forthcoming papers.

Tom (USA)

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This was my opportunity to return to Vonitsa and the dolphins for the second year. I have dreamed of this week for the last 12 months, and memories did not fail. The quiet pace of Vonitsa with the freshest of air, combined with sparkling water and socializing dolphins…  a truly special experience. Thank you, Earthwatch and Tethys. May all our best wishes come true for the creatures of our oceans!

Karin (USA)

28 September 2010

IWC/ACCOBAMS Workshop on Ship Strikes

A joint IWC/ACCOBAMS Workshop on reducing risk of collisions between vessels and cetaceans took place last week (21-24 September) in Beaulieu Sur Mer, France. The workshop was attended by members of the International Whaling Commission Ship Strike Working Group (IWC SSWG), together with experts from ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area), ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), WWF International (World Wildlife Fund for Nature), CMS (Convention on Migratory Species), IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), WDCS (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society) and many other organisations and universities from Europe, United States of America, Canada and Japan.

The workshop was also attended by representatives of the Shipping Industry. The purpose of this participation was to inquire about collisions issues and bring the Shipping Companies point of view, in order to identify a match point between the parties.

The terms of reference for the workshop were to:
1. exchange, evaluate and analyse data on temporal and geographical distribution of cetaceans, shipping and reported collision incidents, with a view to: identifying priorities for mitigation in terms of species, populations and areas; and identifying ways to improve data collection and assignment of cause of death;
2. examine and evaluate existing mitigation approaches/regulations, identify and assess the likely efficacy of potential new ones and make recommendations for further work, including identifying mitigation measures for priority populations/areas as appropriate and methods to examine efficacy;
3. develop scientific and conservation recommendations and a two-year work plan for consideration by the IWC, ACCOBAMS, IMO and others.

Veterinary pathologists, expert in marine mammals, explained how important is an accurate and well-timed necropsy to ascertain if the causes of death are related to collisions events and especially if they occurred ante or post mortem.

The Tethys Research Institute has participated with its Vice president Simone Panigada, as the Italian member of the IWC SSWG, and Elisa Remonato. Simone and Elisa are in charge of the Tethys Ship Strikes Project. Panigada’s speech covered the case study of the Mediterranean Sea, particularly the Pelagos Sanctuary where the problem of collisions is particularly serious.

For more information visit:

http://iwcoffice.org/meetings/shipstrikes10.htm

http://www.collisoni.org/

Elisa Remonato

27 September 2010

Four weeks between heaven and sea

How time flies, if your are enjoying yourself. After being a research assistant for four weeks I have to go on with my life in Germany. Four weeks of boat life, on the sea so far away from usual life at home. Looking back at those weeks I realise that Pelagos and the Mediterranean Sea became my home. Every time we headed out to sea, I felt the same buzz of anticipation as if it was the first time for me: the amazing feeling of happiness when seeing the graceful dolphins that come along to join the boat. Beyond all words is the experience of bathing in the majestic glow that is spread by the big whales. Those four weeks were like living on another planet, floating high somewhere between heaven and sea. And even now that I am back in Germany’s cold and rainy autumn, I just let my mind travel back to San Remo, thinking of the whales and dolphins of the Mediterranean. Then I get the same uplifting feelings, the same good vibes as if I was still on board. And that will make me survive until next year. Thanks to all people I met on board, especially to Francesca and Viridiana, who taught me all I had to know for being a good research assistant. Thanks also to Nino, Eva and Letizia: I had such a great last week with you. Hope to see you all again next year!

Nina Kelch
CSR research assistant

26 September 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 19 (21-26 September)

The summer has gone, the air is getting cooler and the days are noticeably getting shorter day by day.  Still, when the sun comes out it warms the people up putting a smile on the face of the chillier ones. But you know what? Whales and dolphins always make the biggest difference and there is no wind or rain capable of bringing down the mood and the excitement of the crew. Each day was spent out and, with flat or rough sea, the usual striped dolphins, especially the very little ones, showed up gladdening the people with their funny and clumsy swimming together with their mothers and companions. A small loggerhead turtle and a couple of ocean sunfishes tried to go unnoticed but the watchful eyes of the observers on board of Pelagos didn’t miss them. From smaller to bigger animal the size changes, but excitement and amusement were always the same. Sperm whales with their gentle majesty were fluking just a few meters off the boat, leaving everybody speechless. Finally, how to forget the astonishing colourful view at our awakening between the Lerins Islands? A red rising sun on the horizon and a setting full moon over the sky of Cannes: as magical as rare. With this picture still vivid in our eyes, it comes easy to recall what Aldo Leopold said: “Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” (A Sand County Almanac, 1949).

Eva, Letizia, Monica and Nino (CSR Team Members)

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This was an amazing week, I really enjoyed it and I was able to learn a lot about cetaceans of the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to Nino, Monica, Letizia and Eva for being so kind with me and for giving an answer to all my questions (a lot of questions). Thanks to Paolo that is a perfect sailor, also with an awful sea like today! I hope I will have another experience like this next year. Bye!

Zaira (Italia)

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Every day was so special as each day had something new to offer. I will always remember the first time I saw a sperm whale fluke go up; it was breathtaking. We had such nice weather too, and staying between the Iles de Lerins for two nights was just magical. I had so much fun and will remember this week forever. Thank you Letizia, Eva, Nino and Monica for giving us such an enjoyable week. I sure learned a lot about cetaceans and the research aspect of studying them. I hope someday to be able to contribute to the life of cetaceans like you do.

Mirjam (UK)

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Bye, Bye Eva, Letizia, Monica and Nino. Thank you for a very exciting week with a lot of new experiences. It has been amazing to see the striped dolphins cruising under the bow and be lucky to get the eye contact with the mammals. We also enjoyed to see a lot of striped dolphin calves next to their mother and jumping around in the water. We were also lucky to follow some sperm whales during the week, who are incredible whales. It has been great to experience how you study the mammals and it has been exiting to learn about the mammals in the Mediterranean sea (especially Nino’s lesson with documentaries that put the research into a bigger perspective, e.g. overfishing and endangered mammals). We will take all these facts and the knowledge about how important it is to protect the environment with us back to Denmark. You all four have been an amazing team to join and you have been very open to everyone – we felt very much at home on the boat. And to Nino... don’t worry, we will take action on the problem at the Far Oer Islands. Loads of kind regards.

Louise and Matilde (Denmark)

25 September 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 18 (13-19 September)

The sea always has in store big surprises to delight the eyes of the people willing to wait and able to observe, and on board of Pelagos the people are always craving for intense moments to keep deep-down the heart. Last week, the Pelagos Sanctuary—after three sightings of sperm whales and many other of the usual striped dolphins—granted the CSR Team with the second sighting of pilot whales of the entire research season. Nino was at the hydrophone tracking two sperm whales 20 nm south of Sanremo, and the skipper, Paolo, was sitting next to him. While deciding the best route to reach the animals, on the spectrogram some atypical sounds appeared. Within a few seconds it became clear that the animals in acoustic detection were actually pilot whales. Paolo was the first to literally jump to reach the cockpit but as soon as he was up there, the observers spotted the animals not far from the boat. Almost 15 animals, divided into two small subgroups, were actively swimming all around the boat, with the three calves being the most active swimmers of the pods. After almost one hour spend with the animals the team decided that it was time to turn the bow towards the coast. The sun was setting down and the sky getting reddish. Sanremo was still far to be reached so we just enjoyed the last hours of navigation socking up the final rays of light.

Eva, Letizia, Nina and Nino (CSR Team Members)

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This is the end of my second week on Pelagos and I’ve totally loved them both.  They’ve been very different weeks, but equally as enjoyable.  The whales and dolphins have be incredible, the crews have been brilliant, truly welcoming and lovely and my fellow participants have been more than I could have wished for (being cooped up in such a confined space!).  I’ve made friends that I hope I will know in years to come.  Finally thank you to Francesca, Anna, Nina, Vittorio, Nino, Eva and Letizia for making everything amazing and allowing me to join you in trying to find out more about the amazing cetaceans of the Mediterranean Sea.

Clare (UK)

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What an amazing week this has been, not only have I gained valuable experience which can be used in my future career as a marine biologist. But also the great sightings that we have been fortunate to have seen have made this trip extra special! The striped dolphins, sperm whales and pilot whales all added to the trip. I think the work being done here is fantastic and hope that it makes an impact in the near future! Of course this trip would not have been possible if not for the excellent crew, who have been very hospitable, kind and helpful. Oh and the food was great too! Thanks a lot and hope to see you all again!


Victoria (UK)

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Thank you, for making this trip such a great experience. For my first time seeing such amazing mammals, I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. The crew have all been fab and so welcoming and passionate about what they do. The pilot whales I would have to say were my favourite on the trip. And it was so nice seeing them with calves. I hope to have the same experiences throughout the rest of my education and for what ever comes next. Thank you!

Morgan (UK)

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Coucou! So much fun on board with all of you! I couldn’t expect such an amazing week: dolphins, sperms whales, pilot whales and people were so funny!  Thank you for everything! The team was brilliant! And now the words are missing to tell how happy I was to fulfil this dream I had from so long time…

Floriane (Suisse)

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Many thanks for an amazing and dream –fulfilling week . The sightings were spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed all the lectures  - this has been an invaluable experience. All the crew were most helpful and always  willing to answer any questions. Hopefully I will be able to participate in similar experiences in the future. Thank you all very much!


Julie (UK)

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Thank you all very much for this great trip, seeing sperm whales was just amazing to me! Big thanks to the crew, who did everything to make this trip special and so funny! I felt just like home on the boat.

Nora (Austria)

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Great sightings and a lovely team! I have enjoyed the trip so much and if I had the slightest doubts before, now I know for sure that I want to become a whale and dolphin researcher. Thanks to everyone on board, I will not forget this week a next time I will be back for longer!

Jenny (Germany)

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We really enjoyed the week of learning so much about the Mediterranean Sea and daily life of scientific work. Thanks for being so kind and the marvelous food!

Andi, Judith and Sophie (Austria)

22 September 2010

Francesca Zardin su PIG Magazine

Nell'ambito dell'iniziativa Ketos 2.1 tenutasi ad aprile presso l'Acquario Civico di Milano, PIG Magazine ha intervistato Francesca Zardin - ricercatrice dell'Istituto Tethys.

L'intervista è apparsa nel numero di aprile, ma per chi se la fosse persa è disponibile alla pagina 142 del seguente link:

http://issuu.com/avalondep/docs/pig-magazine-81-marzo-2010

21 September 2010

The scam of dolphin-assisted therapy

Read the post by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara on his "Wave Action" blog.

http://www.disciara.net/?p=359

Dolphin captivity attempts risk metastasizing the Egyptian Red Sea coast

Read the post by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara on his "Wave Action" blog.

http://www.disciara.net/?p=303

In opposition to dolphin captivity

In this interview, Dr. Lori Marino — a neuroscientist and Senior Lecturer at Emory University — convincingly explains why dolphins do not belong in a concrete pool.

http://tinyurl.com/24aeb3z

The site also features a defense of dolphin zoos by Dr. Paul Boyle Senior Vice President of Conservation & Education for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

20 September 2010

Slide Show: Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago

View some of the best photos taken in the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago, Greece.

View Slide Show

19 September 2010

Dolphins of Greece 16 (12-19 September)


Thanks for the great time in Vonitsa. We had 4 days of dolphin sightings and they were all different and special. The most beautiful day was on Saturday when we saw 10 common dolphins around Kalamos island. That made me very happy and gave me a feeling that there is still hope. To live so close with the other volunteers was a bit scary in the beginning. But I feel that we are a wonderful group and we became close friends. I laughed so much the last week. I am sure that we will keep in touch. I loved being with you all on that trip. Joan, you are a wonderful (and very handsome) instructor with a lot of knowledge and passion. Thanks for everything. I had a wonderful time. Joe, keep on going. No matter in which direction. Keep on travelling. Thanks for everything.

Vanessa (Germany)

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This was my 28th Earthwatch expedition so I knew it would be another great experience and indeed I was very ,very pleased with the whole project. We had splendid sightings and an amazing turn of good fortune when we were able to study a pod of common dolphins; something which had not been observed here for several years. It was a delight to have a team with volunteers from Switzerland, Germany, Australia and 2 of us from California. The friendship and camaraderie was excellent and I feel we will be keeping in touch. The actual work was VERY interesting, and even when no dolphins were observed we were surrounded by beautiful scenery and splendid weather. Meals were excellent and quite often we succumbed to the temptations of local restaurants. Joan, our team leader, showed incredible knowledge about the dolphins, seeming to be aware of their location and able to predict where they would emerge. He is able to memorise their positions, location, numbers in groups, all in a whirlwind of action at times. Joe, too has a splendid grasp of all the activity . A wonderful opportunity to observe dolphins, create new bonds of friendship , AND … very important… help protect these amazing creatures.

George (USA)

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I want to tell you how much I enjoyed this exciting meeting with the dolphins. When I saw "my first one ever" my heart missed a beat! I will not forget being surrounded by these elegant, wonderful animals. Great to see newborns with their mothers, too! Special thanks go to Joan and Joe. On this team I got more exciting information than on any of my previous 12 Earthwatch expeditions due to Joan and his great knowledge and outstanding love for dolphins. Joe was very helpful and patient. As we were a team with only 5 members, we were very dependent on each other and now, at the end of the project we can say goodbye to real friends who we shall never forget. We had happy days together and laughed a lot but with my poor English I could not fully understand and follow all the jokes. Back home at Zurich with my memories, I will still be close to the project and I hope it will continue with your affection and care for the dolphins. Thanks so much for this wonderful and memorable experience!

Anneliese (Switzerland)

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Vonitsa and it’s dolphins have been all I expected plus more. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was wonderful. Joan, sharing your knowledge of the dolphins helped me to better understand their nature and not expect what the aquariums show us. Especially exciting was seeing the common dolphins on our last day. Your enthusiasm as well as Joe's let us know how special this sighting was. Joe, you were so helpful and friendly, thank you. Good luck to you in whatever you decide to do. The village has been so friendly, the environment so pretty and the weather collaborated to make it a perfect Earthwatch experience. Of course the team members were one of the top ingredients; we all worked so well together. I will recommend the project to my friends.

Nikki (USA)

18 September 2010

Ionian Dolphins 16 (12-18 September)

This is the last team of the Gulf of Corinth 2010 season, and a most lucky one: all the four cetacean species inhabiting the Gulf of Corinth have been sighted (including the rare Risso's dolphin, see post by Philippa Dell). And then sea turtles, a 2m-long dead tuna floating adrift, and thousands of beautiful Cotylorhiza jellyfish, with the additional blessing of sunny weather and pleasant temperature. A terrific closure for an outstanding research season.

Giovanni Bearzi
Project manager and science coordinator, Coastal Dolphins

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Cetacean research, meaning several hours on an inflatable surrounded by dolphins and the occasional sea turtle or 2m tuna  = WOW. Being on the water, learning about cetaceans, the local ecosystems and their conservation; it’s been incredible. We’ve been lucky, our team were the first to see  all four dolphin species here, I even got to name ‘our’ Risso's dolphin, ‘Papou’, Greek for Grandpa. At times words can be so inadequate, incredible and lucky don’t do it justice. I’ve spent most of each day stoked, beaming from ear to ear. The respect that I feel for this planet and the creatures that inhabit it is stronger than ever. That includes the humans here, corny as that may all sound. A huge thank you to the generous, and hilarious, Tethys' team Silvia, Philippa and Giovanni; and to my only slightly crazy team mates, Yasmine, Lois, Gabriele and Piero have been fabulous. I’ll be spreading the word.

Jennifer, England

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Observing Nature is the best show you can find.

Pierandrea, Italy

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I’ve been on several vacation/volunteer dolphin trips and not once have I been lucky to go out all scheduled days and, on top of that, lucky enough to see all four kinds of dolphins. It almost makes up for “THE HILL”. Keep doing the work and change will happen. Good luck.

Lois, USA

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Ciaooo! It will not be so easy to express in a few words all the thoughts passing by on my mind during these days... but anyway: I will remember the professionality and passion of all researchers (Giovanni, Silvia, Philippa and all other guys of the Tethys team) spending their days with us and the dolphins. I will be so proud to diffuse to all my friends all things learnt during our surveys suggesting them to partecipate to this project. And I will remember terms such as Arial, Stationary, Percussive, New Station... I would be so happy to continue to work as a volunteer on this project, even if my feeling with NETPAD is no so good eh eh eh. ANYWAY:  thanks a lot! Ah!!!! I am forgetting the most important thing: a special thanks to Yasmine, Jennifer, Lois and Piero for all the days spent together. Goodbye, and see you asap!

Gabriele, Italy

17 September 2010

The Comfort of Others

Searching for dolphins in a rough sea can often be a frustrating activity for a cetacean researcher, with every wave and white-cap a constant source of distraction. At some point, however, the reward for hours of concentration can be presented before you, as the research team in the Gulf of Corinth found yesterday morning. At the sudden appearance of an unusually large dorsal fin, I progressed through a process of alarm, confusion, and eventual enlightenment as the Principal Investigator, Silvia Bonizzoni, began to emit ultrasonic squeaks, bouncing up and down behind the steering wheel.  We had chanced upon a sighting of the elusive Risso’s dolphin! 

Sightings of Risso’s dolphin are hardly common in the Gulf of Corinth – researchers at the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute of Greece have documented only two individuals in the entire area. The Tethys team themselves have spotted this species only once prior to today’s sighting, identified subsequently as the same individual sighted yesterday. Thus it is perhaps understandable that professionality climbed out of the boat and swam off for the initial few minutes of the sighting, as Silvia and I proceeded to jump about the boat, exclaiming in barely-restrained elation.

Observing this magnificent creature, even for a short period of time, reveals the true extent of their behavioural complexity. Throughout the duration of the sighting, this large dolphin was exhibiting what could only be described as ‘play’ behaviour, nosing up underneath a Cotylorhiza jellyfish, flipping it back and forth between caudal and dorsal fin. The true purpose behind this activity is unknown - due to our regrettable inability to communicate with the individual – however, it may be theorised that this behaviour arises as a result of social exclusion from its own kind, or simply a reflection of the complex ‘personality’ traits exhibited by higher order mammals in this way. However anthropomorphic it may seem, the Risso’s was visibly enjoying itself, albeit to the extent of the unfortunate jellyfish.

The most striking point of interest taken from this sighting was the presence of the single Risso’s dolphin amongst a mixed group of striped and common dolphins. The astoundingly high level of interaction between the Risso’s and the other dolphin species indicated how deeply integrated the individual has become. Gliding side by side, the striped, common and Risso’s dolphins give a lesson in the achievement of peaceful co-habitation.

Border disputes and territory skirmishes mean nothing to these animals, as newborn striped dolphins hurtle themselves across the water surface in and around the larger un-related animal. The trust exhibited by the striped and common dolphins towards the Risso’s – in tight formation for the majority of the sighting - leaves the observer incredulous. The individual exhibited apparent protective behaviour over the smaller dolphins - encircling the boat, remaining in a constant shielding position between our vessel and the focal group. The animal maintained an aura of both dominance and care, ensuring the safety and security of those individuals that have welcomed it into their social network in the absence of its own kind.

What struck my pensive mind during the sighting was the juxtaposition of this inter-specific trust and integration, with the equivalent human context above the sea. We humans instigate whole dossiers of law and legislation before any form if immigration program can be established in a country. In our world, sociality is often divided by race, religion, borders and resources. Life for us is to be fought, not shared. This marine mammal microcosmos, however, was apparently untouched by such forms of division. Whilst our people are torn apart by petty disputes, these animals have found a way to co-exist and benefit from that which is necessary to all living creatures – the comfort of others.

Philippa Dell (Research assistant, Coastal Dolphins Greece)

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Relevant literature:

Frantzis A., Herzing D. 2002. Mixed-species associations of striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), short beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) in the Gulf of Corinth (Greece, Mediterranean Sea). Aquatic Mammals 28(2):188-197.

16 September 2010

Slide Show: Amvrakikos Gulf

View some of the best photos taken during the expedition in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece!

View Slide Show

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All photos © Tethys Research Institute

15 September 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 17 (6-12 September)


Another week is finished, and our vessel Pelagos rests quietly in Portosole harbour. A late summer shower washes away the salt from the deck together with the sweet weariness of an intense week at sea. A special guest was with us on board: Ivan, a Biology student and precious helper all year long in the Milano office, where for years he has dedicated his free time to any task required. We wanted to specially reward him with something priceless: a week with the whales. For some members of the crew these have been the last days of the 2010 season, and no better close could have been asked for. Early one morning, while planning the routes for the day, the captain forecast the presence of sperm whales in a western area. Immediately after deploying our precious underwater ear, the luring call of the giants arrived to instigate us to the acoustic search. What an excitement, what a rush of the heart is to guess, forecast, fail and chase the predators of the sea. Breathtaking to wait for the sight until somebody shouts: “BLOWS! 10 o’clock, 300 m”. The intense rains of the previous days covered the sea with much debris, and in the middle of the trunks and branches a lonely goat carcass was floating miserably. But then the first sperm whale came to enlighten us, and the day continued with an intense data collection. Reaching Ville Franche, ready to spend the night in the lovely bay, in our very last minutes of sighting shift, an unexpected individual was breathing a thousand meters from the coast. Beneath him only a few hundred meters of water. The sperm whale, pink in the sunset, was as an evening present for our dreams. The morning after, we decided to see if our coastal friend was still there. Not him, but another coast lover was exploring the Cap Ferrat area, which unfortunately is busy with recreational vessels. Later that day even a breaching individual appeared, and in the sun glare spy hopped and swam on a side exposing an unusual side of his fluke. Everybody on board remained speechless for the intense days of marvels. Looking to the enthusiasm of the crew, the participants perfectly understood the series of lucky events they had faced. Two amazing days: four sperm whales sightings, twenty-one flukes and restless hours of hard working enjoyment. The initial photo identification work tells us that there were at least 6 individuals in the waters facing Montecarlo and Ville Franche. The week came to a perfect close with a late night dancing party on the boat deck, when all the new friends expressed the joy lived in these special days.

Francesca, Anna, Nina and Vittorio (CSR Team members)

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„ […] è solo quando siamo persi nella meraviglia che possiamo giungere nel mondo sacro.”

Stupore e meraviglia descrivono solo una parte di quello che ho provato in questa settimana di settembre, carica di vento e di avventure. Attese e inaspettate. Vivere il mare e le sue creature, in libertà e con profondo rispetto è un'esperienza che auguro di vivere almeno una volta nella vita.

Liana (Verona)

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Mit grosser Spannung war ich in Sanremo angekommen, nachdem ich schon fast ein Jahr im Voraus gebucht hatte. Viele junge Leute und ich als der Senior der Gruppe, der den Altersschnitt brutal in die Tiefe zog, fanden sich sehr schnell zu einer Einheit zusammen. Das schlechte Wetter zu Beginn wurde durch Ersatzprogramm hervorragend genutzt und schweisste die Gruppe richtig zusammen. Im Verlauf der Woche waren neben bester Stimmung verschiedene Unterweisungen angesagt. Das Dolce Vita und nette Abende inbegriffen, aber auch anschauliche und gut zu verstehende theoretische Begleitung. Ueber 20 Begegnungen mit Pottwalen, verspielten Delphinen und anderen Meeresbewohner erfuellten einen lang ersehnten Traum. Highlight war das Schwimmen in tiefer See, bei dem es tatsaechlich ein Schwimmen mit den Walen war. Und als die Gruppe auf der einen Seite des Bootes aus dem Wasser stieg, tauchte auf der andren Seite ein Wal auf. Ein sehr guter, erfahrener Captain, das kompetente Tethys-Team, die sowohl sehr professionelle als auch menschlich herausragende Behandlung, sind besonders hervorzuheben. Vielen Dank Tethys. Weiter genau so.

Viktor (Germany)

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Non 10, non 100, non 1000, ma infinite volte ripeterei questa settimana! La scoperta dell’esistenza dei delfini è stata per me l’inizio di un lungo sogno, che fino a martedì non si era mai avverato! Un sogno lungo 18 anni, ma che sembra essere durato una vita. Prima di questa esperienza conoscevo la mia strada; non restava altro che mettersi in cammino e accorciare le distanze che mi separavano dal mio obiettivo per il futuro. Fino all’inizio di questa settimana ero riuscita a vedere i delfini nell’acquario e due volte in mare aperto, ma in lontananza. Era troppo poco per me! Volevo qualcosa di più! Grazie mille a Francesca, Vittorio, Anna e Nina perché con le vostre conoscenze mi avete aiutato a compiere un grande passo avanti. Grazie al capitano Roberto, perché senza di lui potevamo avvistare solo i pesci del porto e infine grazie a tutto il resto dell’equipaggio per essere stati dei compagni di viaggio perfetti. Grazie perché questa esperienza non mi ha maturato solo dal punto di vista teorico, ma anche morale. Ho imparato che la semplicità, la spontaneità e il sorriso sono le uniche ricchezze della vita e che niente può impedire che un sogno si avveri. Tornata a casa dovrò aspettare un anno per rivedere il mare, e con l’inizio dell’ultimo anno di liceo riprenderà la mia depressione da studio, che sarà, questa volta, alleviata dal ricordo di questa esperienza. Non mi resta ora che trovare la soluzione per convincere i miei a tornare anche l’anno prossimo. Grazie mille per essere stati gli artefici di una delle esperienze più belle e importanti della mia vita e chiedo scusa se qualche volta sono stata inutile o di intralcio ai lavori! Spero di rivedere tutti l’anno prossimo! In bocca al lupo per tutti i vostri progetti.

Anna (Italia)

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I would like to thank Tethys Research Institute for providing such a beautiful, interesting and uplifting experience to the public. Many people live their lives separated from the reality of how beautiful this planet is, but giving them the opportunity to get involved in marine research and live alongside cetaceans allows them to reconnect with the natural world, which is a truly special gift. The Mediterranean is a unique and precious environment and getting the public involved helps to educate and stimulate conservation. Also, I would like to thank Francesca and her crew for the warm and welcoming atmosphere they created. When living together onboard for a week, the crew environment is really important and after only one week the Pelagos feels like home. I hope I can return to be part of yet another exciting adventure. Thank you for making this possible.

Sacha (Australia)

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Difficile iniziare, è stata una settimana talmente intensa e ricca di emozioni!! Sembra banale ma vorrei ringraziare tutte le persone che mi hanno accompagnato in questa esperienza perché senza di loro non sarebbe stata così meravigliosa, Francesca sei una gran donna da te ogni giorno si impara qualcosa, sei un esempio per tutti, ti ringrazio di cuore per avermi fatto conoscere la Tethys e il meraviglioso progetto CSR mi hai fatto vivere un’esperienza unica, Anna, Nina e Vittorio siete stati fantastici un equipaggio di veri esperti, instancabili, riuscite a trasmettere la vostra passione a tutti spero di incontrarvi ancora, e che dire del nostro bellissimo capitano Roberto, un vero lupo di mare che rispetta gli animali come pochi, con lui a bordo si è sicuri di non affondare e di non speronare capodogli!! Per quanto riguarda il resto del gruppo non potevo sperare di meglio, alla partenza ero un pochino preoccupata, si sa in barca gli spazi sono piccoli e invece ho conosciuto gente stupenda siamo diventati un gruppo affiatato ci siamo divertiti tantissimo e penso proprio che mi mancheranno. Un grazie a tutti i cetacei che vivono nel nostro bellissimo Mediterraneo e mi hanno regalato emozioni che non dimenticherò mai. Non sono stati affatto timidi: ho perso il conto di quanti “fluke up” ho visto! Avrò sicuramente tralasciato un sacco di cose ma tutto quello che ho vissuto non potrà mai essere dimenticato e lo porterò sempre nel mio cuore. Ciao a tutti!!!!!

Cristina (Italia)

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Questa settimana mi ha regalato e insegnato più di quanto pensassi. Il mio pensiero corre al primo capodoglio visto, lui respirava e a me mancava il fiato. Mi è difficile trovare le parole giuste per descrivere questa splendida esperienza, per esprimere quella piena sensazione di libertà, quell’attimo fugace di felicità. Ringrazio tutti voi che, nonostante tutto, non mollate.

Natasha (Italia)

14 September 2010

Capodogli a Foce Varano: un mostro per amico

Il presidente di Tethys, Giovanni Bearzi, parla dei capodogli spiaggiati in Gargano e racconta l'esperienza che ha portato all'articolo scientifico sulla percezione dell'evento da parte del pubblico.

Un articolo/intervista di Marta Picciulin per OggiScienza.

UN MOSTRO PER AMICO

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Foto di Silvia Bonizzoni / Istituto Tethys

11 September 2010

Ionian Dolphins 15 (5-11 September)

What an amazing experience... after selfishly taking 6 months off work for a holiday through Europe I needed to satisfy an inclination I have had for my whole life to learn more and somehow contribute to wildlife conservation. Spending a week in Galaxidi contributing to dolphin research seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Living in Australia I have constantly been surrounded by the ocean - but lacked the knowledge to truly understand the amazing creatures we have encountered during this stay. Not only have Silvia and Philippa heightened my passion for marine conservation, but also given me the necessary information that as a teacher in Australia, I can use to educate my peers and students (in particular about supporting sustainable fishing methods). It has not only been the practical aspects out in the ocean tracking and analysing dolphin behaviour that has been a highlight - but the lectures and discussions which have motivated me to somehow make a difference on my return home to protect our oceans and all the marine life that inhabit it (though not quite sure how to do this yet). Tethys: you are doing a brilliant job... it's people like you that actually make a difference in the world and I am certainly one of many who appreciate it - just don't always know how to help. So hopefully being a part of this volunteer program is a small step. One day someone will listen and make a change! Thank you so much for an amazing experience, amazing people and a week that I will always remember.

Lydia, Australia

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Ein wirklich ungewoehnlicher “Urlaub”: Ich hatte keine Ahnung, was mich hier erwartet; und jetzt blicke ich auf eine sehr schoene und interessante Woche zurueck. Ich hatte tatsaechlich viel Glueck: eine wirklich nette Gruppe und Crew, viele Delfine, Schildkroeten, Quallen, ..., interessante Diskussionen – viel gesehen, gelernt und gelacht. Danke dafuer an alle! Im Idealfall hat mein Aufenthalt hier auch irgendwo, irgendwann etwas geholfen – sei es bei der Arbeit hier, sei es durch Weitersagen, die Bilder, die Eindruecke,...; ich gebe mein Bestes ;) Was mich wirklich beeindruckt hat, ist dass Silvia nach so langer Zeit immer noch so viel Freude an der Sache hat – ihre Freude ueber einen gesichteten Delfin ist wundervoll! Macht weiter so! Ich wuensche euch viel Erfolg dabei.

Philipp, Germany

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Etudiante en science de l’environnement, les recherches du Tethys Institute m’interressait beaucoup et en venant en Grece a Galaxidi je n’ai pas ete decue ! Parcourir la mer a la recherche de dauphins est une experience incroyable que je recommande a ceux qui se preoccupe de la sauvegarde de notre si belle planete et de sa magnifique biodiversite. Le dauphin est un animal tellement impressionant, attachant que les menaces qu’il subit sans cesse sont d’autant plus importante. Il est temps d’agir et avec ce projet, l’equipe du Tethys Institute fait un travail genial! Silvia et Philippa sont des passionees qui partagent leur savoir, qui nous font rire et decouvrir un monde magique! Je ne garde que de superbes souvenirs de cette magnifique experience.

Yasmine, Suisse

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When I decided to become a volunteer for Tethys research group in Galaxidi, I did so because I thought it would be great for my future as a marine biologist and would help me be 100% sure about becoming a marine mammal researcher. Now, after this amazing experience, I can say this week surpassed my expectations and that I’m completly sure of what I want to do with my professional future. Seeing dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity can be very exciting, but seeing them in the wild, in their natural habitat makes you feel incredibly lucky and makes you feel the need to help them in every way you possibly can. At the end of the week, it wasn’t only about being a researcher or seeing dolphins, was also about the people involved, the other volunteers and the researchers, and being inspired by them to continuing figthing for our oceans and trying to do the right thing for the planet every day.

Joana, Portugal

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As long as I remember I wanted to be a marine biologist because I fell in love with dolphin and with all marine mammals. So, when I discovered Tethys and this project I thought it would be perfect for me to get some tips from professionals and to find out if this is what I really want to do. It ended up being so much more than that! I learned so much about dolphins, overfishing and so many other things that I was not aware of. I knew that several fish species were on the verge of extincton because they are overfished, but I didn’t realize that the situation was that bad! Now I really want to fight and do everything I can to change this situation. Now that this amazing week is over I have realised how lucky I was. We saw dolphins every day (except in the last one) in situations that were not very common, saw sea turtles almost every day, the volunteer group was really amazing (and so, so funny), and Philippa and Silvia were awesome and very patient with us. I just hope that I can come back and that one day, in a not very distant future, I can be like Silvia and Philippa and do this kind of research for a living!

Catarina, Portugal

10 September 2010

Dolphins of Greece 15 (3-10 September)


7 wonderful days in Vonitsa. Watching wild dolphins was my long-time dream and finally it came true. I hope future generations can enjoy such experience. I want to study more about dolphins, animals, the whole environment, and act to achieve sustainable earth. Joan, I could hardly understand your jokes, but I liked to see everyone laughing at them. You are so good at creating a cheerful mood. It was a pleasure to be with you. Thank you very much for everything! I will never forget that boat! Joe, I was so lucky to meet you at the bus terminal by accident. Thanks a lot for your kindness. Good luck in your future!

Emi (Japan)

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We had an absolutely, amazingly, wonderful time! The project is extremely well organized from the second we arrived to the moment we had to leave. We quickly learned that we were not here to just quietly watch dolphins. We were here to be a part of a real field research project! While our hearts broke to hear about the decline of dolphins around Kalamos, we treasured the precious moments with the dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf. Watching a juvenile dolphin jump in the air and groups of dolphins glide through the calm water was pure joy. Listening to the dolphins exhale, especially the “asthmatic” one, truly touched our souls. Of course, the last day was the most fantastic; as we were surrounded by dolphins, Joan switched off the engine and exclaimed “THIS is Amvrakikos!” and time stopped and for that moment we felt his passion for the dolphins and this beautiful place, which will stay in our hearts forever. We know the dolphins' future is in great jeopardy, as is their ocean home, and we promise to do what we can and to tell anyone that will listen about our experience. Because no matter how dismal the situation maybe, we can never stop being their voices, so that in the future, we can still loudly yell “dolphins, one o’clock, 50 meters!”. Joan and Joe, thank you so very much for creating such a wonderful experience. We hope that we can stay in touch and our paths will cross again.

Daniel and Alexandra (USA)

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This has been an extremely privileged opportunity. To be so close to the dolphins, sea turtles and to understand the consequences of human activity in the resources that Mother Nature provides. Mostly I could only watch silently in awe or go “wow, look at those amazing creatures” instead of pointing out “dolphins sighted, 6 o’clock, 50 metres” which must have exasperated Joan countless times. The facts of the dwindling marine life are quite saddening to know, and this expedition serves as a reminder that we are all so small, and connected like parts of a chain of something larger. Be it cetaceans, land animals or other resources, we must all do our bit to love our environment a little more… so that we build a world based on love and respect for all that nature provides us with. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge Joan and Joe, it has been an experience which all of us will carry and cherish for a long time.

Min (Singapore)

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I had a great time here in Vonitsa. I love this quaint, Mediterranean town and the valuable research that Tethys does. I chose this research expedition to explore a new country and to gain practical experience in marine biology – mission accomplished! I am also grateful for the “league of nations” environment that this project fosters. It was a pleasure to learn about Spanish, British, Japanese, and Singaporean culture. This will be the first of many Earthwatch research expeditions for me – perhaps I’ll even join “Dolphins of Greece” again! Best wishes in all your future endeavours.

Adria (USA)

09 September 2010

Slide Show: Gulf of Corinth

View some of the best photos taken during the expedition in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece!

View Slide Show

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All photos © Tethys Research Institute

08 September 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 16 (30 August - 05 September)

Where to start? This week has been like very few others. It was placed under the sign of uniqueness. The clement weather allowed us to spend all five days out at sea, which we decided to spend mostly in the eastern part of our study area. A decision that proved to be fruitful. Over the past couple of months we were starting to think we wouldn’t be able to sight some of the less regular species that inhabit the Ligurian Sea. Indeed, this week the eastern part of the Pelagos Sanctuary was the scene of four very special and rare encounters:. Even though it may be hard for participants to grasp how unique these events were, we believe the team’s reaction and hardly contained excitement was proof enough. Our second day out at sea was marked by a two-hour-long sighting of a group of fifteen very active Risso’s dolphins, who delighted us by exhibiting their curious behaviours incuding “spy hopping”, “head standing”, “tail-slapping” and even “bow-riding”. In fact, they were sometimes a little too active for the researcher in charge of photo-identification. Later that day, we could not believe our ears when our captain Paolo shouted “ZIFIO!!”. When we came out to see, it was hard to believe how close the Cuvier’s beaked whale was to the boat. She was a female, based on the lack of two big teeth at the front of the rostrum. Following our eastern route, much to our surprise and delight, we had the opportunity to sight a group of four female Cuvier’s beaked whales in the slope area, and managed to stay with them for two hours, as they unusually didn’t stay underwater for more than 10-15 min. The day ended taking refuge next to the turtle-shaped island of Gallinara for one night. Two days later again Risso’s dolphin joined us, but only a three-individual group, calm and relaxed. What an excitement when we discovered that one of the three was in the same group sighted before. To top it all, we also sighted a fin whale, a distant sperm whale and numerous striped dolphins. It was just one of those weeks…

Viridiana, Francesca, Nina, Morgana and Cristina  (CSR Team members)

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As sad as it sounds, it took an experience like this for me to realize the beauty and magnificence of cetaceans and the enormous effect that humans have on their future well-being. I will remain ever vigilant and ever true regarding personal decisions I make from this moment on. Thank you Tethys crew for providing me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – you’ve been extremely welcoming and patient, even if we have trouble reporting what types of boats are in the vicinity =). I won’t let you down!

Khoa (USA)

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A cette heure, les mots manquent pour décrire cette semaine magique durant laquelle nous nous sommes émerveillés, avons découvert, appris. Merci à toute l’équipe de nous avoir fait partager votre quotidien et de nous avoir permis d’apporter notre minime contribution. En échange, nous rentrons un peu plus ouverts, un peu plus conscients, bien plus riches qu’au départ. Nous essaierons de ne pas tout à fait reprendre nos vies là ou nous les avions laissées, de conserver ce petit supplément d’âme, de faire passer le message. 
Ancora grazie mille per questi 5 giorni. 

Julie & Fabien  (Switzerland)

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We have tried, again and again, to find the Loch Ness monster in the Ligurian sea, but in vain. However, many other cetaceans came to join us, too many to remember all of them. If you don’t believe us, we strongly advise you to join the trip and spend some time contributing to Tethys’ efforts. Thus aiming to enhance our environmental awareness and reduce our polluting consumerism and acts. Please carry on like this, it was a real pleasure to meet you and to discover your work and enthusiasm. One more question: why is the sea so salty? 

Nicolas (France)

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What an adventure! We saw so many wonderful things that I don’t really know where to begin… AMAZING is the 1st word that comes to mind. I’m not sure I realise how lucky we were this week. You have told us that the cetaceans we saw were rare… we just enjoyed seeing them. I hope they will still be there in a few decades time for us to see again. That would mean that humans are capable of changing!  Thank you for your explanations, your kindness, your enthusiasm, the way you have to share your knowledge in simple words… I feel like I know the Mediterranean Sea better now, thanks to you.

Noémie (France)